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SDSU hires Vernon Brown to lead SDSU Connect in Sioux Falls

Vernon Brown

The state’s largest and most comprehensive university is taking its next step to enhance existing partnerships and develop new ones in the Sioux Falls region.

South Dakota State University President Barry Dunn announced today that Vernon Brown has been hired as the associate vice president for external affairs, pending approval by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

The position will lead SDSU Connect and the university’s work with key stakeholders, collaborations and strategic initiatives in the Sioux Falls area.

Brown is a 1990 graduate of SDSU.

“We are excited to have Vernon serve in this critical role that will build important relationships and partnerships in South Dakota’s largest community,” Dunn said. “SDSU serves the entire state of South Dakota, but based on the rapid growth of Sioux Falls and the surrounding areas it is important we have an individual with Vernon’s experience focus specifically on that community.”

SDSU Connect, an initiative launched by Dunn, was created following a year of discovery and connecting with Sioux Falls leaders, educators and community members. The initiative involved a 40-member task force with campus leaders visiting and learning the needs of the state’s largest city and conversely the city’s leaders going to the Brookings campus to better understand its role as the state’s first land-grant university and the resources it provides to the communities of South Dakota.

“We remain steadfast in our land-grant mission of providing access to the benefits of higher education for the citizens of our state,” Dunn said. “That access is not only limited to the educational benefits, but also research, SDSU Extension services, faculty expertise, the arts, intercollegiate athletics and many others. Sioux Falls and surrounding communities will all benefit from those opportunities.”

Brown’s responsibility as the associate vice president for external affairs will be to foster Sioux Falls’ unprecedented growth by aligning SDSU’s expertise and resources to have the highest impact for the Sioux Falls area.

“Vernon has deep and unique experience in marketing and public relations that produce positive results for government, schools and nonprofits,” Dunn added. “That experience, combined with the resources SDSU has to offer, will provide significant opportunities for the Sioux Falls business communities, educational systems and many other organizations.”

With 79 different languages spoken throughout the Sioux Falls School District, a wide range of businesses and industries and a large population, the Sioux Falls region aligns well with SDSU’s mission of providing access to the benefits of higher education for all. 

Brown has 20 years of business executive leadership at SDN Communications. He also served eight years on the Sioux Falls City Council, and before that worked as a television reporter. He and his wife, Tami ’94, own and operate The Spice & Tea Exchange of Sioux Falls.

“The jobs I earned and the ways I’ve been able to give back to my community wouldn’t have happened if not for the education I received from SDSU,” Brown said. “This role allows me to use my experience to help other citizens, governments, businesses and nonprofits benefit from all SDSU offers, so they can recognize their full potential. I am very honored for this opportunity and look forward to building on the early success of SDSU Connect.”

Brown will begin his new role September 30.